Alabama Thunderpussy

Fulton Hill

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Alabama Thunderpussy's fifth album, 2004's Fulton Hill, kicks off with a memorable and poignant-sounding instrumental tellingly named "Such Is Life." This may mean nothing to new fans and casual observers, but for those familiar with the Richmond, VA-based hard rockers, it's a particularly apropos song name in light of the numerous travails (bankrupt labels, lineup changes) troubling the group in the early part of the 2000s. Specifically, the latest challenge addressed by Fulton Hill is the breaking in of new vocalist Johnny Weils (ex-Barbed Wire Dolls), whose replacement of popular founding frontman Johnny Throckmorton no doubt left many questioning ATP's future prospects. Thankfully, the transition seems to have gone off rather smoothly, and, although more time is needed to assess Weils' eventual standing in comparison to his predecessor, the singer acquits himself very well throughout his debut performance with the band (who, incidentally, for their part are still firing on all cylinders). In fact, his harsher, very intense, hardcore-tinged style meshes perfectly with typically high-caliber, riff-heavy, bar-brawling ATP crunch crusades like "R.R.C.C.," "Blasphemy," and "Sociopath Shitlist." He comes across equally confident and a little more musical on more laid-back respites from aggression like the organ-driven "Three Stars" (Southern rock built on a meaty AC/DC riff) and the explosively building "Alone Again." Truly, it's only on the unnecessarily long "Bear Baiting" (which inexplicably buries his voice in the overall mix) and the heartfelt, but awful clumsy acoustic ballad "Do Not" (where his new bandmates rudely dangle him in front of a very substandard take on the Lynyrd Skynyrd "Simple Man" prototype) that his chops and confidence falter in any way, in the process revealing the understandable "feeling out" process inherent to the album's undercurrent. No such problems afflict Fulton Hill's 13-minute closer, "Struggling for Balance," however. Taking a welcome sidetrack into rarely explored (at least by ATP) epic stoner jam territory, the track's well-balanced fusion of pummeling power chords and calmer, hypnotically swirling Arabian melodies marks it as a real winner. More importantly, it also offers comforting assurance that, whatever unexpected obstacles may yet bump their road ahead, Alabama Thunderpussy have already proven to be more resilient than many of their original, long defunct retro-rock peers.

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